Dubai: If you think the role of an airline’s cabin crew entails just serving meals and looking good, you couldn’t be farther from the truth. In July this year, two passengers who suffered a cardiac arrest on two different Emirates flights were saved, thanks to the cabin crew on board. They used a combination of CPR techniques and a defibrillator to save both passengers’ lives and keep them stable until they could receive medical attention from emergency services on the ground. Both passengers are now recovering well.
The intervention was not happenchance. As Emirates points out, all new recruits graduate from the airline’s rigorous cabin crew training programme, which makes them adept at handling a series of tasks and situations, including mid-air emergencies.
Marking World First Aid Day this month, Emirates celebrated 3,000 new cabin crew recruits who are now equipped with top-notch aviation first aid skills. And this is just one area of training that the recruits have undergone over eight weeks during their ‘ab-initio’ training.
The ab-initio period includes a myriad of courses from security to service, safety and emergency to hospitality, and the critically important medical response training. The crew are trained to manage a range of situations on board, and this includes learning essential life-saving skills. Using a combination of practical, in-situ, classroom and online learning, new recruits are taught invaluable lessons which prepare them for life, and to save the lives of others.
What exactly do they learn?
Medical training is provided to new cabin crew on all aspects of first aid including dealing with a collapsed casualty who has fainted, managing choking, recognising and managing breathing difficulties like asthma and hyperventilation, sudden illnesses like chest pain, stroke, low blood sugar, allergic reactions, deep vein thrombosis, barotrauma, decompression illness, and substance misuse. Crew are also taught how to deal with injuries like fractures, burns, and amputations, as well as communicable diseases, the importance of infection control procedures, and on-board hygiene.
The new recruits are schooled in the life-saving skills of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), where they practice on patient simulation mannequins, and on how to use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) machine properly. Using a specially designed medical mannequin, cabin crew also experience what it’s like to deliver a newborn baby on board, as well as managing death. All training is provided by certified aviation first aid instructors, in the world-class training facility - Emirates Cabin Crew Training Centre in Dubai.
What support is in place for the cabin crew?
When there is a medical incident on board, cabin crew are supported by the flight deck crew (Captain/Pilot and First Officer/co-pilot) and a team called Ground Medical Support. Ground Medical Support is a team based in Emirates Headquarters, who are available 24/7 by satellite communication to support and advise crew around the world on medical incidents on board.
From a psychological perspective, cabin crew also receive training on gaining consent to assist passengers, showing empathy to the sick and their families, staying calm, keeping the casualty informed at all stages and being present with the casualty until the situation improves. They also learn how to break difficult news when required. After any incident, the cabin crew are also provided with support for their own mental health, through Emirates’ Employee Assistance Programme, the Peer Support service, and Sehaty – Emirates’ employee wellbeing programme.
Cabin crew knowledge and skills are put to the test each year at a recurrent training, and crew are required to complete a 1.5-hour online course, two-hour practical session for CPR, AED, severe bleeding, and severe allergy management, with assessments for each. The experienced crew also participate in a flight simulation exercise annually to ensure they are fully equipped to handle any medical incidents and their knowledge is regularly refreshed.
Putting First Aid into action
Many Emirates cabin crew describe the role as ‘the best job in the world’ - not only because they deliver award-winning service at 40,000 feet and the unique lifestyle that comes with the job, but because they also discover their own heroic potential through life-saving skills and emergency management. Having access to Emirates aviation first aid training helps new recruits develop their communication skills, initiative and leadership qualities, the ability to work effectively as a team, the focus to stay mentally strong and calm to work effectively under pressure, and – how to save and protect the lives of others.